Weehawken’s own “bridge to nowhere” could be carrying pedestrians across Port Imperial Boulevard as early as April of next year, more than five years after construction began in 2005.
The uncompleted bridge spans four lanes of a busy waterfront road, alongside a light rail station and near the Port Imperial ferry.
Negotiations between developer Roseland Properties and New Jersey Transit (NJT), which stalled soon after the project started, were finalized last month. The work will resume sometime this fall, Weehawken officials said.
Originally, NJT was supposed to spend $8 million in state funds to build the bridge in 2005. The bridge was meant to connect to a parking garage and hotel that Roseland was to build as part of its residential waterfront development in Weehawken.
“It can be very dangerous crossing at the surface.” – Mayor Richard Turner
The bridge lay partly completed for years, until NJT, Roseland, and Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner figured out a way to move ahead.
According to the mayor, plans for the new hotel have taken a backseat in a “slumping economy,” but the parking facility is still on the agenda.
“In the interim, we were able to convince the separate parties to move forward with the bridge,” Turner said.
He also said that even though construction began in 2005, the bridge was never meant to open until roughly 2008. “We had to start the bridge prior to the electrifying of the rail system,” he said, otherwise the light rail train that runs through the area would’ve had to close during construction.
Having to negotiate a new plan was no easy feat, Turner said. “Bureaucracy is something that never ceases to astound me.”
A spokeswoman for the transit company, Penny Bassett Hackett, said completion of the final phase of the bridge will cost $1 million.
“It’s another avenue for customers to get to the ferry,” said Bassett Hackett, referring to the ferry that crosses the river into Manhattan. “People can stay covered during inclement weather.”
A 10-person, two-story elevator on the Hudson Bergen Light Rail station side of the street will bring pedestrians up to the enclosed bridge.
Bassett Hackett said that although there is adequate “signaling” to allow safe passage for people crossing Port Imperial Boulevard below, often pedestrians “tend to not obey” traffic directions, which can become very dangerous.
“It’s just an added convenience, and a safe way to get across the street,” she said.
Some people waiting outside the ferry terminal Tuesday doubted there was a need for the bridge at the intersection, calling the traffic light a “quick light,” and the bridge “just plain ugly.”
But Weehawken officials said the bridge is necessary to ensure the public’s safety.
“It can be very dangerous crossing at the surface,” said Turner. “It’s just not safe to force people to go across. This makes it easier, quicker, more convenient, but most importantly, much, much safer.”
Sean Allocca can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org